As someone who has struggled with sleep issues and insomnia since before I can even remember, I have gotten pretty desperate to find a cure and finally get some sleep. A few months ago, my therapist recommended I try meditating before bed as a way to clear my mind and score a restful slumber, but I never fully committed to doing it regularly (my bad!).
We all go through a sleepless night every now and then, but when you’ve got insomnia, it becomes a chronic, unending cycle of tossing and turning, constant yawning, and some seriously heinous undereye circles that concealer simply can’t touch. Don’t forget the Venti coffees and groggy afternoon naps.
I’ve never been a sound sleeper, even as a toddler, and the problem has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I also struggle with anxiety and depression, so after reading about the many benefits of meditation, I figured I’d try to meditate every night for two weeks before bed to see if I could rest my weary mind once and for all. What did I have to lose, except these dark circles under my eyes?
My therapist recommended two free apps: Headspace (which is narrated by a guy named Andy who has the most soothing British accent in the world) and Calm, which has guided meditations for all kinds of things, like self esteem, gratitude, and sleep. Since meditation is such a personal experience, you can find the app or practice of your liking, and it can be as spiritual (or not!) as you want. The great thing about meditation is there are no rules — you can make it whatever you want it to be.
Here’s how my experiment went. Buckle up.
Night 1: Sightseeing Slumber
I’ve been spending the past four days sightseeing in Washington D.C., and with that comes achy feet and a tired body. But my insomnia has been so severe, I’ve still had plenty of sleepless nights. So, suffice it to say I really needed a decent night’s sleep.
I started in a pretty non-conventional way, using a ten-minute guided meditation on the Calm app for self-love. My husband decided to join in on the experiment some of the nights, and we both enjoyed the benefits of clearing our minds before bedtime. The first night was a complete success — I fell asleep quickly and never woke up until the morning, feeling refreshed and rested.
Night 2: The Long & Winding Road Home
This was my last day of sightseeing in our nation’s capital, and I was more than tired. But insomnia doesn’t care how tired you are—it’ll still find sneaky ways to keep you up. I picked another ten-minute meditation via Calm, and found myself yet again enjoying a restful night’s sleep. I woke up at 6 a.m., much earlier than I needed to, and struggled for a bit to fall back asleep, but once I did, it was just what I needed for the two train rides and three cab rides home to New York.
Night 3: Home Hallelujah
After a five-hour long journey, hubby and I made it back home, and we were both pretty tired by the time we hit the sheets. And I’ll be honest, sometimes meditating feels like a chore, like taking off my jewelry and makeup before bed, so we just did a quick five minute body scan to drift off to sleep after our long journey. That paired with the fact that we were reunited with our own bed made for a blissfully restful night’s sleep. Score.
Nights 4 and 5: A Deep & Dreamless Slumber
Nothing new to report here, except that I never knew how heavy I could actually sleep (and when I say heavy, I mean drool all over my pillow heavy. Is that TMI? #sorrynotsorry!), and I don’t consider it a coincidence with all the “omm-ing” going on in my bedroom each evening.
Night 6: Hello, Insomnia, My Old Friend
Unfortunately, this was the first night in the experiment that my insomnia reared its ugly (and tired!) head, and meditation was no match for my restless mind. I attempted a 10-minute sleep series on the Headspace app, and Andy’s soothing voice wasn’t even enough to get me in the zone.
I fidgeted my way through yet couldn’t keep my mind focused. I had a lot going on with work and in my personal life, and I couldn’t empty my brain enough to fall asleep easily. When I finally did sleep, I woke up around 4:45am and tossed and turned for hours. I really hate nights like this and I knew I was going to pay for it later after my morning coffee wore off.
Night 7: Tossing & Turning
As is so often the case with insomnia, my body was exhausted but my mind had other plans. A 10-minute Headspace meditation wasn’t enough to rest my weary mind. I still couldn’t shut my brain off easily, though my husband had no problem — he was already in dreamland before we even finished the session! I didn’t fall asleep until well after midnight, getting up just six hours later.
Nights 8 and 9: Peace At Last
Finally, it seemed my body was ready to reset and get back to a decent night’s sleep, but I have to admit that committing to 10 minutes of meditation is daunting sometimes. It sounds easy, but finding 10 quiet minutes at the end of a long day can be downright annoying. Still, I persevered and kept up with it. Sending the deep breaths to my tense muscles was just what I needed.
Night 10: A Rocky Start
By the time hubby and I made it to bed, I was exhausted…or so I thought. We chose a quick, three-minute body scan, and he barely lasted the three minutes before falling fast asleep. Me, on the other hand? I made the grave mistake of scrolling through my phone after turning off the meditation app, and found it hard to fall asleep. When I finally did, after about a half hour, I had a restful, deep sleep and awoke refreshed and ready to tackle my Monday. Thank goodness.
Night 11: How To Keep An Orchid Alive
It pains me to admit, but meditating every night before sleep is a chore, much like exercising. Finding the motivation to do it is tough sometimes, and last night was no exception. I chose a 10-minute deep sleep session on the Calm app and it worked wonders.
At first, I was thinking about completely random things (like how to revive my houseplant and how rude PK was to queen Erika Jayne on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills finale), but by the end of 10 minutes, I was dozing off into a dreamy slumber. I did not wake until the morning, which is something I’ve *always* struggled with. Bliss.
Night 12: International Calm Day
The Calm app kindly let me know that yesterday was International Calm Day, and they offered up the premium services on their app for free. Score! I chose another 10-minute deep sleep session, and it was hard for my brain to unwind at first. An achy stomach from a big dinner didn’t help matters, so it was hard to keep focus and enjoy those deep breaths. My mind eventually stopped wandering, and I dozed off into a dreamless slumber. Sigh…
Night 13: Liquid Dreams
It’s worth mentioning at this point in our journey together that I drink a lot of liquid throughout my day. I have tried to cut off my liquid consumption before 8pm most nights, because it will, without fail, wake me up in the middle of the night to pee. But sometimes the allure of a hot cup of tea just grabs me—and I gave in last night while hanging with my husband on the couch around 8:30.
Usually, when my gotta-go urge wakes me up in the middle of the night, I have a very hard time falling back asleep. But since I’ve been meditating, it feels so much easier to fall quickly back to sleep, a true miracle for an insomniac like myself. Not to condone my bad liquid behavior, but this is a total win for me.
Night 14: The Last Hurrah
Are you still with me, guys? At this point, the journey to consistent, quality sleep has been filled with ups and downs, and my final night was no exception. My husband I went out for our weekly Friday night date night and I had a massive meal. I’m talking burger, fries, and fro yo for dessert.
My stomach was definitely still digesting even after we watched a movie and enjoyed a 10-minute session with Andy on Headspace. I was able to ease my mind, but my body wasn’t letting sleep happen. I eventually fell asleep but woke up around 5:30 a.m. and found it difficult to fall back asleep. Finally, around 7 a.m. I took an early morning nap (is that a thing?!) and woke up shortly before 8.
The final word
I’ll admit, I initially thought meditation was a New Age-y thing that only yogis and Buddhists practiced, but I can certainly see the power of taking a few minutes each night to collect your thoughts and clear your mind. I can’t say that I’m “cured” of insomnia, but I do know that when meditation works, it really works. It can be extraordinarily hard to disengage from your day and give your mind the freedom to relax, and I found meditating to be helpful, especially when it comes to actually sleeping through the night.
More often than not, I enjoyed a great night’s sleep these past two weeks, which is a solid improvement. Now I’m just happy to have another tool at my disposal for those nights when sleep feels nothing short of impossible. Give it a try and maybe you, too, can enjoy some much-needed beauty rest.